5 takeaways from the first College Football Playoff rankings of the 2018 season

Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley gives instructions to his players during the first half of an NCAA college football game against TCU, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018, in Fort Worth, Texas. Oklahoma won 52-27. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

The first College Football Playoff rankings of the 2018 season were released on Tuesday, and it was close to what everyone expected.

Alabama, No. 1. Clemson, No. 2. And then LSU, Notre Dame, Michigan and Georgia all hovering around the cut line.

The rankings will certainly change within the coming weeks as the top teams play each other, but what can we gather from the first poll?

1. UCF still isn’t much of a factor

No. 12-ranked Central Florida changed head coaches and is still running through its schedule with ease. UCF might go back-to-back seasons with zero losses, but the committee still doesn’t seem to value UCF as a true playoff contender.

“There was a lengthy discussion (about UCF), obviously, given the strength of schedule issue, but you balance that against what you see when you watch the games,” said College Football Playoff Selection Committee chair Rob Mullens during a teleconference on Tuesday.

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Mullens acknowledged UCF’s 7-0 record, “quality quarterback” (McKenzie Milton) and “good offense” (what's up, Josh Heupel?) during his answer about the Knights.

But it seems like if UCF's resume isn’t enough right now, what’s going to change between now and December with home games against the likes of Temple, Navy and Cincinnati, plus a road clash with South Florida, remaining on UCF’s schedule?

2. A one-loss Notre Dame might not make it in

Notre Dame is undefeated. LSU has one loss. But the Tigers are ranked ahead of the Irish.

Call it "SEC bias" all you want, but Notre Dame's resume isn't nearly as impressive as LSU's is and the committee is making somewhat of a statement to Notre Dame that they likely can't afford to lose this season.

Obviously, chaos could happen and a one-loss Notre Dame could slide in to the playoff. But the Irish really need that Michigan win to hold.

Mullens touched on why the two were ranked where they were.

"I mean, obviously (Notre Dame is) a quality team, 8-0, impressive opening season win over Michigan," Mullens said. "The committee certainly has recognized their improvement on offense over the last few weeks. So overall very impressed with Notre Dame.

"When you look at them against LSU, though, LSU is the only team in the country with six wins against teams above .500. That includes wins over No. 6 Georgia, a ranked Mississippi State team, and their only loss is a road loss, close road loss at Florida."

The good news for Notre Dame, they'll get No. 19-ranked Syracuse in a few weeks to bolster their argument. Also, the committee likes Northwestern (who Notre Dame plays on Saturday) as you'll see in the next takeaway.

3. Michigan has the committee’s respect

If No. 5-ranked Michigan wins out, it certainly seems like they’ll be in the College Football Playoff. There are two teams in front of them (Alabama and LSU) that will play each other and the Wolverines likely don't care if their one loss, Notre Dame, drops a game with their other quality wins to fall back on.

“Michigan has a very strong resume. Their only loss is to No. 4-ranked team on the road in the first game of the year,” Mullens said. “Five wins against teams with a winning record, strong road wins, Michigan State, at Northwestern. Great on defense. Michigan is a very good team.”

Other than the four teams already in the top four, Michigan likely controls their destiny the best of any team in college football right now.

4. Oklahoma’s coaching staff changes will be considered

Oklahoma checked in at No. 7 in the initial playoff rankings. This comes three weeks after Oklahoma lost to Texas and fired its defensive coordinator, Mike Stoops.

The good news for Oklahoma is losing to Texas isn’t as huge of a knock on its resume as it was in 2015. And the committee seems to be open to considering midseason coaching changes as a sign of a progress for a team if it yields positive results on the field.

“We evaluate results, and if there are changes that change results, then that's a factor,” Mullens said. “We don't look at changes and look back and say what would have happened had this change occurred earlier. The results are what they are. But when changes occur, we look at what happens in the next weeks after the changes are made."

Side note: Coach Lincoln Riley is probably very thankful Iowa State, who Oklahoma beat in Ames, Iowa, earlier this season, is ranked No. 24 in the playoff rankings.

5. 'Clean slate'

If there's one thing the committee stays consistent on, it's that they start with a "clean slate" every week. It basically leaves the door open for the committee to do anything it wants — like rob TCU of a playoff spot in 2014.

Basically my final takeaway is: expect things to change a lot as they always have.

Mullens touched on the committee's "clean slate" philosophy during his teleconference after being asked about how the committee views the evolution of a loss throughout the course of the season.

"That's the beauty of this process," Mullens said. "We start with a clean slate every week, and we get a new set of results, and that blank sheet of paper is very helpful for just that, because things change throughout the year. Next week when we come in, we'll have a clean sheet of paper with another week's set of results."

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